supposedly “toothless” laws against straw purchasing actually carry significant
criminal penalties. Two statutes can be used to charge straw purchasing. The first makes itillegal to lie on the ATF form when purchasing a gun (ATF Form 4473).
The second makes itillegal to do anything that would deceive a gun dealer about any fact material to the lawfulnessof the sale.
The penalties include up to five years in prison
under the first statuteand up to ten years in prison
for the second.
The prison term under either statutemay be in some instances stacked for each offense, so straw buying on ten separate occasionscould be punished with up to 50 or 100 years in prison, depending on the statute used.
Far from “neuter[ing]” ATF’s funding, Congress actually doubled it. F
rom FY 1999 toFY 2010, Congress increased funding, from $541.6 million to $1.158 billion. The number of fulltime equivalent positions also increased nearly 30%, from 3,969 to 5,078.
Moreover, lack of permanent leadership at ATF in 2009 and 2010
the timeframe when Fast and Furious wasactive
is directly attributable to inaction by President Obama. After taking office, the Presidentwaited nearly two years before sending Andrew Traver
’s nomination as ATF Director to the
Senate on November 15, 2010.
Voth, 39, was a good choice for a Sisyphean task. Strapping and sandy-haired, theformer Marine is cool-headed and punctilious to a fault. In 2009 the ATF named himoutstanding law-enforcement employee of the year for dismantling two violent streetgangs in Minneapolis. He was the "hardest working federal agent I've come across,"says John Biederman, a sergeant with the Minneapolis Police Department. But asVoth left to become the group supervisor of Phoenix Group VII, a friend warned him:"You're destined to fail."Voth's mandate was to stop gun traffickers in Arizona, the state ranked by the gun-control advocacy group Legal Community Against Violence as having the nation's"weakest gun violence prevention laws." Just 200 miles from Mexico, which prohibitsgun sales, the Phoenix area is home to 853 federally licensed firearms dealers.Billboards advertise volume discounts for multiple purchases.Customers can legally buy as many weapons as they want in Arizona as long asthey're 18 or older and pass a criminal background check. There are no waitingperiods and no need for permits, and buyers are allowed to resell the guns. "In Arizona," says Voth, "someone buying three guns is like someone buying asandwich."
18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(1) (2006).
18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6) (2006).
18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2) (2006).
William J. Krouse, “
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF): Budget and Operations forFY2011
,” Congressional Research Service (Jun. 6, 2011).
“President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts,” White House (Nov. 15, 2010),
2171Fast and Furious: The Anatomy of a Failed OperationAppendix III: The Whole Truth About the Fast and Furious Scandal